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Marie Williams

Commissioner 
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Marie Williams was appointed Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) by Governor Bill Haslam, effective October 22, 2016. 

Previously Ms. Williams, LCSW, served as the TDMHSAS Deputy Commissioner, since her appointment on August 28, 2011.  Ms. Williams was responsible for the leadership, oversight, and direct management of each Division and acted on behalf of the Commissioner in his absence, as necessary. 

In her position as Deputy, Ms. Williams served as top advisor to the Commissioner and managed the departmental budget of over $300 million. In her tenure as Deputy, Ms. Williams successfully assisted in the Department’s transformation initiative and the closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute by moving patients into the community and reinvesting $20.5 million into the community for programs and services.  Her leadership secured the support of three East Tennessee private psychiatric in-patient hospital partners to provide services to those patients previously served by Lakeshore. 

In her role as Deputy, Ms. Williams worked with former Commissioner E. Douglas Varney regarding the prescription drug abuse epidemic facing our state and participated in the creation of the Prescription for Success initiative, a multi-faceted strategy to address the prescription drug problem in Tennessee. Deputy Williams also made a concerted effort to oversee the implementation of more “low-cost, high-impact” programs in the community.

Prior to the appointment of  Deputy Commissioner, Ms. Williams served as the Assistant Commissioner of Mental Health Services where she worked collaboratively to expand consumer based recovery services focused on special populations, supports, employment, housing, transportation planning, consumer affairs, and crisis services. Her division oversaw the statewide planning process as well as the successful implementation of the behavioral health safety net program, which provides services for persons who were disenrolled from TennCare.

Her initiative, the Creating Homes Initiative (CHI), was announced in August of 2000 and has been responsible, in collaboration with seven Regional Housing Facilitators and community partners, for the leveraging of more than $484 million in federal, state, local, public, private, traditional, and non-traditional funding sources. Thus far the CHI has developed 13,592 supportive housing options along a continuum that allows for persons diagnosed with mental illness and co-occurring disorders to live in, thrive in, and contribute to their communities in the least-restrictive settings that are consistent with their needs and choices.

Ms. Williams received First Place in the 2002 Eli Lilly Reintegration Award for the CHI. She received the Best Practices award from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and was made a finalist in the Good Housekeeping Award for Women in Government. Ms. Williams was the 2004 recipient of the NAMI Phillip & Sarah Francoeur Award for Housing.

Prior to serving as an Assistant Commissioner, Ms. Williams was chosen as a Community Builder Fellow with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While at HUD, Ms. Williams received Secretary Andrew Cuomo’s Best Practices recognition. She brings several years of experience working with the homeless population, formerly as Director of Homeless Services for Catholic Charities of Memphis, where she developed and administered operations for treatment programs at three sites for persons diagnosed with mental illness or co-occurring disorders. Her most significant professional publication and accomplishment is the creation of the Out of Poverty curriculum, a group-based peer and mentor training program for helping people move from dependence to self-sufficiency, co-authored with Dr. Larry Lambert, which is currently being implemented in communities across the country.